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26 June, 2013
My Mark Twain
A Double-barrelled Sonnet to Mark Twain
by Howells, William Dean


(Written to be heard, not read)

(Read at the Birthday Dinner to S. L. Clemens, November 28, 1902)

I
FIRST BARREL
The man whose birthday we renown tonight
Unites all heads and hearts in one acclaim
As never any other "heir of fame":
The missionary may not love him quite,
The imperialist may not think him wholly right,
The predatory cabman free from blame,
The moralist consider it the same
To teach by joke as with a text in sight,
Some as a scientist may not prize him much;
Some may deny him the true lyric leaven
As poet; some the fine old Bewick touch
As wood engraver; but, none under heaven,
Of all his critics, or those who pose as such,
Gainsay him the glory of being sixty-seven.
II
SECOND BARREL
"Oh, no! Hold on!" I hear his voice implore,
"You are mistaken; it is not the case.
The Colonel, to save the Sabbath from disgrace,
Calls this my birthday. But, in fact, before
The thirtieth -- and there still are two days more --
You cannot make me more than sixty-six."
"In vain!" the inexorable Muse replies.
"It may be so; but as the executrix
Of your own theory of convenient lies,
I must insist upon the Colonel's date.
Besides, what matter whether soon or late
Your birthday comes whose fame all dates defies?
Still, to have everything beyond cavil right,
We will dine with you here till Sunday night." 


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